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The global shipping industry is bracing for a Donald Trump presidency, fearing the antitrade rhetoric in the campaign could turn into international showdowns that cripple the flow of goods. The timing is especially worrisome to shipping companies, the WSJ’s Costas Paris reports, with carriers counting heavily on the U.S. to pull them out of the steepest demand downturn in three decades. Maritime operators worry that a new wave of protectionism could fan out from the U.S. across the trading world, triggering a new wave of tariffs and other barriers that undercut years-long trading relationships. Trade was front-and-center in the presidential campaign, and leaves the prospect that President-elect Donald Trump plans to remake the global trading system, potentially reversing the post-World War II consensus on liberalizing U.S. trade. The WSJ’s Bob Davis reports Mr. Trump will have the tools to do that without congressional approval, and could simply withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization with little more than a formal notice. The betting in Mr. Trump’s camp is that trading partners will believe that access to the U.S. market is too precious to give up without negotiating new deals. Until that happens, however, ocean carriers will have to watch the political winds.
Railroads expect big benefits from a Donald Trump presidency, and the biggest may have little do with the policies toward freight carriers themselves. Oil, coal, mining and minerals companies are likely among the big corporate winners in the transfer of power to a Republican administration, the WSJ’s Alex McDonald reports, and those are foundation customers for railroads that have seen their carload business dimmed by crashing commodities trade. Coal, in particular, could be a bright spot, with Mr. Trump promising a complete overhaul of U.S. energy policy, pulling back regulations that weighed on the coal and petroleum sectors and ending U.S. participation in global efforts to curb climate change. Railroads expect big benefits in areas such as corporate tax reform, but the WSJ’s Betsy Morris reports carriers also are signaling they’re concerned that protectionism in trade could hamper movements of oil and other commodities, including business with Mexico. That was underscored by a double-digit percentage decline in shares of Kansas City Southern in the wake of the election that defied the upturn across the rest of the rail world. The freight carrier has staked much of its future on trade with Mexico, and both investors and the railroad are worried that the border could become a barrier to KCS’s growth.
Trucking companies expect a Donald Trump White House to clear a new path to growth for them. After sputtering through several years of tepid demand, truckers are expecting more highway spending to improve roads and a reprieve from regulations that gives them more control over their operations. The American Trucking Associations, the largest group representing trucking companies in Washington, says it has already met with the Donald Trump transition team, the WSJ reports. The questions over how to pay for greater road spending haven’t been answered, and even some truckers are critical of suggestions that the Republican administration would start privatizing highways. Any plans will have to go through Republicans in Congress who have been stingy with highway spending dollars for years. Still, the WSJ’s Andrew Tangel and Bob Tita report, companies like Caterpillar Inc. that provide construction equipment, as well as industrial suppliers of building materials, also hope to see a long-needed stimulus on the roads.
ECONOMY & TRADE
President-elect Donald Trump, at a campaign event last month in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
There are signs of concern over Donald Trump’s potential trade policies in a region that helped boost him to the presidency. Agriculture traders sent futures prices for farm commodities down in the wake of the election, the WSJ’s Jacob Bunge and Jesse Newman report, as the U.S. Farm Belt absorbed the prospects for an administration that is tougher on trade and on the big merger deals that are consolidating industry suppliers. Many in farm country want to see the Trans-Pacific Partnership approved, but U.S. Senate leaders say the ambitious multination agreement won’t come up in the waning weeks of the current Congress, leaving the pact to wither. Agriculture shipments have been a bulwark for exports, and for freight railroads looking to replace lost energy-goods carloads. The U.S. agricultural industry also may wind up jousting with the Trump administration over immigration, with immigrant workers often providing crucial labor to harvest crops and tend animals.
E-commerce is shaving away a big share of the market for razors, straining relations in one of the retail world’s seemingly fundamental supply chains. The latest disruption is coming from Harry’s Razor Co., a three-year-old business that started out selling razors online before striking a deal this year to display its goods at Target Corp. stores. The WSJ’s Sharon Terlep and Khadeeja Safdar report that it looks like the upstart has taken market share from Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette, and thrown dealings between the supplier and its retail customer off balance. The pain point for Target and P&G is the latest example of the upheaval that online selling is triggering in consumer-goods supply chains. P&G is trying to cope with inroads from web-based insurgents like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, and it started its own online subscription service for razors. That’s blurring the lines between the suppliers and sellers, with all sides trying to figure out when they’re working together and when they’re competing.
--- Source: The Wall Street Journal ---